Clown bashed by police in 1981 Springbok tour wants answers

Source: 1News

It was one of the most infamous acts of the 1981 Springbok tour, police officers bashing and badly injuring three protestors dressed up as clowns.

For 40 years, there’s been a code of silence over who was responsible, but one of the victims wants answers and an apology.

The man, who spoke anonymously to 1 NEWS, said he would like an apology from the three officers involved.

“I’m still asking myself 40 years on why there's been no apology and why the perpetrators on the day haven’t come forward,” he said.

A group of protestors dressed as clowns had come to defuse tension on the last day of the Springbok tour, but ended up victims of police brutality when they were attacked on Auckland’s Dominion Road, near Eden Park.

The victim said his memory of that day is still vivid.

“The assault on two of them was vicious. I just got batoned a couple of times and ran off but the 60kg bumblebee - she was in leotard and stockings - she got hit around the neck. It was pretty terrible and the other clown had his ear split and stitched up,” he said.

Just who batoned the clowns remains a mystery.

The Red Squad, the elite police team formed especially for the tour, was blamed. An internal inquiry was held, but officers closed ranks and no one was held to account.

The clowns were compensated $10,000 each following a civil trial, with the jury finding the police officers’ use of force unlawful. But the victim 1 NEWS spoke to said the clowns never got justice.

“The reason I would like an apology would be to show that the cops actually showed some remorse for what happened on the day, and are able to tell us they’ve improved processes and systems to ensure that wouldn’t happen tomorrow,” he said.

The man doesn’t want the responsible officers named publicly but would like to know if they had assumed any responsibility on the force after the assault.

“It's important to know that the three officers have been identified and if this was to ever to happen again in the future, there would be a solid process for finding out who did it and why and being removed from any frontline role in crowd control,” he said.

Former New Zealand Times journalist Pekka Paavonpera witnessed the attack.

“As the clowns were cowering against the hedge, the three police officers began hitting them with their riot sticks, prodding them in the stomach, using them as batons - they basically kept going 'til all three had slumped to the ground,” he said.

Paavonpera said the attack was unprovoked and contrary to claims, the clowns hadn’t been throwing stones.

“The most they did, they went up to police lines, offered baguettes that they were carrying.”

The former journalist would also like to the know the identities of the police involved.

“All the officers in the Red Squad protected those three, so at least the majority of the Red Squad knows who those three members were.”

Red Squad members declined or didn’t respond to 1 NEWS' interview requests and questions.

Police say an apology isn’t something they can address as the identity of the officers isn’t known.

About 300 complaints were made about police behaviour during the tour, but none were upheld.

Former Blue Squad leader, John Thurston, rejected claims of police using excessive force during the tour.

“You can protest peacefully then when it gets ratcheted up you are told you can't go past this line, and if you go past that line then you'll be stopped going past it,” said Thurston.

But when it comes to the clowns, it was the police who crossed the line on September 12, 1981.